A Game of Categories
Peggy Gardner, our school's Communications Specialist, asked me if I could use my column this week to address guns and gun control. I had no intention of entering this realm. I said I preferred not to because the whole thing made me too upset. But then I went and started writing anyway, so I’m sure I will ruffle some feathers with this column this week. That may need doing.
When I taught sixth grade for a few years, one of my favorite learning games was called “categories.” I knew that by sixth grade, kids are developmentally ready for naming things and then generalizing them into categories. Like if I say: “sunny,” “lazy days,” “beach,” my students might say, “category of things that are in summer!” Summer is the category. You could also say, “category of things I love.” That’s a lot closer to what I would hope to write about, but I can’t now. There are too many things happening now in the category of: “Things we must not stand for, things we must stop at all cost.”
The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution appears to protect an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. It goes like this:
Amendment II: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
It was ratified in December 1791. At that point, 1791, “arms” consisted basically of muskets and flintlock pistols. A typical Revolutionary-era musket had a one-round magazine capacity, and it could fire around three effective rounds per minute, in the hands of the most skilled wielder.
As an essentially apolitical person except when it comes to kids, I agree whole-heartedly with all of our rights to bear flintlock pistols and muskets. Especially if they are going to keep our militia well regulated as per the Constitution. Muskets are in the category of “arms” as used by the framers of our Bill of Rights.
Almost 20 years ago, Dylan Klybold, of Columbine School shooting fame—and I do mean fame—he is actually a role model for many shooters, due to a tragic flaw in human psychology— was not regulating a militia, and he used a Hi-Point 995 carbine with thirteen 10-round magazines, a sawed-off Savage 67H 12 gauge pump shotgun, and a sawed-off Stevens 311D double-barreled shotgun, all purchased by his girlfriend, an 18 year old Columbine student. The fact that the purchase of these weapons of mass destruction was legal should be confusing and wild to any sixth grader with a good teacher.
The right to bear muskets and flintlocks has nothing to do with any of this Klebold weaponry, of the weaponry used in almost any of the massacres now occurring pretty much daily in our very sick country: you would not put assault weaponry in the category: “arms referred to in the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution”, unless your analytical skills have been bludgeoned… or never developed… by, say, hmmm… a weakened educational system...
Nor does the right to bear any of these weapons today fall very well into the category of “things that give us freedom,” or “things that are the people’s will:” almost no one except crazy people would have wanted Dylan to own all this stuff any more than we’d want him to regulate our militia. Are we losing our minds?
Of course, we know what this all has to do with: it has to do 100%, completely, only, entirely to do with interest groups (the NRA, various weapons manufacturers, and the many politicians who are bankrolled by them, etc.) making huge bank. When politicians accept huge donations and payments for voting, we have a category for this: “things that are corruption.”
The people who advocate for legalized weaponry of mass destruction as an aspect of their Constitutional rights are sick, cruel, heartless, corrupt, ideological, twisted, ignorant, greedy, and disgusting pigs. For starters. Or else they are just proceeding with no real thought, just avoiding what’s happening, getting all their news from tweets or something.
Yes, we have a lot of other senseless dying and killing going on, like automobiles: but we are doing this “bearing arms” killing completely on our own volition, and we are all watching it happen. We are standing by, we are struggling, but we are not getting action. Never before have we known and seen so clearly the consequences of our lawmaking and behaviors. Never before have humans distinguished themselves among other forms of life so tragically. Never before has our form of government been in such advanced state of failure and corruption. The idea that we have a pluralistic government is dead. This is not the will of our people any more than the flood of deadly opioids into our country is the will of the people.
If the National Rifle Association or the U.S. branch of the neo-Nazis were operating in the Middle East or, say, France, here is the category any of my sixth grade students would have put them in: “people who are terrorists.” And that goes for our Congresspeople who fail to legislate for real change, who abide by what is happening to our country. For me, the next election cannot come fast enough to get rid of lawmakers who will not support transformation in gun laws.
Enter: schools, teachers, and our process of education. On October 20, 2018, students and educators from across the country came together for the Student Gun Violence Summit in Washington, D.C. Our school was represented by Sophie S. ’20. The summit resulted in the creation and ratification of a fourteen-point plan of action for addressing the issue of gun violence in America. The final “Students’ Bill of Rights for Safer Communities” can be found on the The Action Network, where it is posted as a petition.
This is about way more than just knowing the signs of a troubled student or colleague. Our nation is suffering from an epidemic in domestic terrorism, we are arming our own terrorists and killing ourselves. This great nation of ours, this bastion of freedom, has become a pitiful caricature of its founding ideals. No free, democratic nation would permit the recurrent slaughter of its youth except one which had lost its way.
I know you are reading this column because you care about discovery-based, compassionate education and not my views on political issues. So please know this: right now, our job as educators who intend to develop compassionate and sane students, is to ensure that those students feel inspired and empowered do what it takes to say no to an insanity that not a single one of their parents had to grow up with. Action is the highest form of learning. While I’m still fine with muskets, I’m clear that a change has to happen with respect to the bearing of military grade weapons that keep finding their way into schools and really wherever our youths may congregate. We need a change. Activism is the process of promoting change in society.
After the Student Summit, Sophie noted: “If anything can be learned from our Bill of Rights, let it be this: listen to the youth.” I am at a loss for how we will get the action we need without our kids, who I hope at the Grauer School are taught well enough to put all this into the category of “things that happen about once a week in our schools”. I urge every one of my students to help the older generations reclaim their sanity. We are lost.
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